By Debbi K. Levy
Exodus 35:30-31: “And Moses said to the Israelites: See, Hashem has singled out by name Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, endowing him with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge in every kind of craft, and inspiring him to make designs for work in gold, silver and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood — to work in every kind of designer’s craft — and to give directions.”
The eyes of the 12 tribes of the Israelites gazed in the same moment at my friend, Bezalel, when Moses proclaimed him the sacred designer of the Tabernacle. And Bezalel’s eyes? They found me in the masses, and I looked down in humility, for the honor of him sharing his potent moment with me. An emerald I had been polishing day after day jingled in my pocket against a smooth piece of silver, these tokens signaling quietly to me of my newly impending role in apprenticing for the finest craftsman we had ever known, Bezalel, in service to the Creator of All.
I wasted no time. Once our people had been told by Moses that the Lord asked those whose heart moved them to bring gifts for the assembly of the described Tent of Meeting, I moved swiftly to my tent and peeled away the blankets and garments that hid my earthly treasures. One more layer of finely spun goats’ hair, and there they were, gleaming at the ready.
A sapphire, a gold coin, a jacinth, several pieces of lapis lazuli, smooth dark stones and other crystals that had made their way to me over the course of all my years so far. Walking through the desert with my stones upon my back was grueling at times, but I carried them until we pitched the tents instructed by Moses. Tears were filling my eyes, now, in gratitude to my own feminine strength and fortitude.
Treasures on my back yet again, I made my way to the sacred site where this Tabernacle would be constructed. There, as I assumed he would be, was Bezalel, directing the collection of “gifts,” as the people had been instructed to offer. Lines had begun to form already. Loving hearts filled with gratitude for the freedom we experienced as a people fleeing from the Egyptians, we were delighted to empty our hands of our collected sacred objects. These objects would unite us in worship and create the space where we could earnestly and majestically invite the One God to dwell among us. There was no hafsaka, no pause, between the invitation from the mouth of Moses and the beginning of our sacred tasks.
Bezalel was radiant. He was careful to thank each contributor and meet their eyes. A fine piece of linen, a sturdy ram skin tanned for weeks, a bit of copper, a piece of silver, some length of crimson thread, all brought in service to the Lord.
With perfect instructions through the prophet Moses, the planks went up. The acacia wood began to reveal the form of an ark. Copper utensils and hammered-gold cherubim to protect the opening were close to being completed. The carvers and craftspeople endowed with sacred energy and expertise began to feel that they were born for this very purpose as each facet of the Tabernacle came to fruition over days and weeks.
Although my talents were helpful for the larger construction, my kavanah, my intent concentration, was about to begin. The sacred vestments for Aaron the Priest, just as the Lord had commanded Moses, for the construction of the ephod and breastplate were up to me to collaborate and carry through. Bezalel’s eyes upon me, not questioning but, rather, admiring my passionate efforts, ignited a fire in my belly that manifested itself in a work that was awed by the people.
We were making our way, this group of Israelites doing the most holy work we could ever have imagined, down to the final sacred details.
I had set the 12 stones that I had personally carried through the desert into Aaron’s breastplate. Each stone represented one of the 12 tribes. Each stone, once placed, shone like a star gleaming from the heavens.
Bezalel, the sewers and I were completing Aaron’s priestly robe. We were working on the hem. Bezalel was gently hammering and forming tiny solid-gold bells. We began, one tiny gold bell hanging from the hem, and then next to it I would embroider a pomegranate in purple, blue or crimson yarn, alternating the divine color scheme. A bell, a pomegranate, a bell, a pomegranate. Our hands flew. Our eyes and hearts locked. The hem of the robe, now endowed with perfect instruction and design. There was no talking between us, for none was necessary, just the sound of the tiny bells as each was sewn on the hem, in perfect pitch. I was correct in my gut instinct that I, too, was born for this moment.
The Israelites felt the love and protection of the Lord as they worshipped and beheld the sanctity of the Tabernacle. We human beings, we need sights and sounds and aromas of incense to urge us to pray in the present moment. We needed a record, the breastplate, to make a seal of our tribes so that we, in our steadfast dedication to the Lord, could be counted — and counted on — to do holy work as we multiplied and stepped into our destiny as Jewish people.
Year after year you read about the sacred assembly and construction of the Tabernacle, and you read aloud the name Bezalel, whom the Creator singled out, and he was truly as described, endowed with the talent to bring to fruition any kind of craft. But I wanted you to meet the girl who brought and set the stones.
May Elohim bless each of us on this journey, those leaders and craftspeople who constructed the Tent of Meeting and those who continue to remember it today. Amen.
Debbi K. Levy recently returned from her Priestess retreat as you read this dream. She actually went. She is looking forward to sharing her experience with you.